Diocesan contingent braves blizzard to attend national March for Life

Weather doesn’t deter pro-life supporters, including presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, from Washington rally

By Jim Wogan

When Kari Lopez heard the weather forecast, she didn’t waver.

After months of planning to attend the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., Kari wasn’t about to let a little snow get in the way of participating.

But even by conservative estimates, the D.C. area was predicted to be in the bull’s eye of a storm that meteorologists and their computers suggested could bring 30 inches of snow to the nation’s capital. That’s hardly a little snow.

“We were full steam ahead,” Ms. Lopez said after she, her two daughters, and friend Stephanie Richer returned from their trip on Jan. 24.

“My dad never worries about anything — he’s retired military and he (has seen it all). He was the only one that was worried. I told him, ‘Dad, we’re doing the Lord’s work and He’ll take care of us.’”

The forecasts were accurate. Washington was hit with one of the worst blizzards in its history— but it didn’t stop the March for Life, an annual prayer event held each year on Jan. 22 to protest the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

The Lopezes and Mrs. Richer traveled to Washington on Jan. 21, the day before the march. It was the fourth march for Life for Ms. Lopez’s daughter, Alaina, a senior at Knoxville Catholic High School, and for Mrs. Richer, a professional photographer.

It was the first march for Ms. Lopez and her younger daughter, Angelina, a sixth-grader at St. Joseph School.

“I really expected it to be an eye-opening experience. I mean, I have been to rallies here locally before, but never on a national level. My older daughter is very enthused about the movement and very passionate about it, so I was hoping to instill that into my younger daughter and keep that enthusiasm alive. There was a gentleman there that mentioned another (event) in April and my younger daughter asked if we could come back for that,” Ms. Lopez said.

The 2016 March for Life began with a prayer rally at the Washington Monument. According to Ms. Lopez, the predicted snowfall started shortly after the rally began, and by the time the march moved out, the snow’s intensity picked up. By the time the estimated 100,000 marchers made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court building, about a mile away, Ms. Lopez guessed there were five inches of snow on the streets. The walk took about an hour.

After the March, the Knoxville foursome hoped to continue their own walk to the White House, but increasing snowfall made them reconsider.

They stopped shortly after reaching Pennsylvania Avenue and made their way back to their hotel.

Their march was over, but their journey wasn’t.

Ms. Lopez said the original plan was to stay in Washington until Sunday, and their hotel room in Arlington, Va., was secure for the weekend.

While the D.C. area was shut down on Saturday, the Knoxville contingent proceeded with their plans to travel home on Sunday, Jan 24.

The trip took around 9 1/2 hours in an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

“Most of the roads around Arlington were being plowed by private contractors. Arlington Boulevard was not plowed at all. When we got out to Interstate 66, they had one lane plowed for a while, but when you got further out toward Fairfax and Prince William County, they didn’t plow anymore. When we got to Interstate 81, it was clear,” Ms. Lopez said.

Given the severity of the weather, and knowing what she knows now, Ms. Lopez said she’d still do it again.

But she met others, including a family of seven from Michigan that planned to leave the night of the storm. Mrs. Richer, a New York native and a parishioner at Holy Ghost Church, warned the Michigan family that travel going north could be treacherous.

There were numerous national reports of buses filled with March for Life participants, including schoolchildren from Wisconsin, Nebraska and other states, being stuck on snow-covered interstates, especially in Pennsylvania, for hours.

By those standards, Ms. Lopez and her fellow travelers were fortunate.

The weather forecast prompted schools in the Diocese of Knoxville to cancel their trips to the march.

2016 marked the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Since then, March for Life rallies have been held each year. Ms. Lopez understands the necessity of continuing to march — even if four decades of protest hasn’t moved the nation closer to overturning the decision.

“We just wanted this to be about the babies. The theme this year was that being pro-life is being pro-woman and that was a good thing because (in the past) everyone has always said if you’re pro-life you’re not pro-woman. It was a very positive experience and I think it was done in a very tasteful and respectful manner.”

Ms. Lopez recommends Catholics in Knoxville consider attending a future March for Life. “If anybody has never been before but they are passionate about the movement, I would encourage them to go.”

This year’s march also took place in an election year — something that wasn’t lost on Ms. Lopez.

“There were a lot of young people there, and it was a good number (of people), even with the weather. With (presidential candidate) Carly Fiorina there, that was really quite fantastic because my oldest daughter will vote this year, and I have been encouraging her to get more involved and listen to the candidates. So it was really good for her to be that close to a candidate feeling that passion,” she said.

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